The Meanmouth Bass: A Unique Spotted Smallmouth Hybrid

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Meanmouth Bass

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It’s not uncommon for anglers to reel in some unique-looking hybrid fish. These fish can have some very eye-catching traits and, being hybrids, can also have unpredictable temperaments and natures.

A meanmouth bass is a hybrid that occurs when either a smallmouth or a largemouth bass mates with a spotted bass. Smallmouth and spotted bass often share the same areas within a lake or river and often come into contact with each other leading to the meanmouth hybrid offspring of these two fish.

Anglers that have a chance to see a meanmouth at their local lake, or have the luck of hauling one into the boat, will tell you that these fish are an equal mix of aggressive and ornery. 

What Is a Meanmouth Bass?

A meanmouth bass is a name given to the hybrid offspring of a smallmouth bass, and either a spotted or largemouth bass. Meanmouth that are reeled in will usually be the smallmouth and largemouth combination.

While spotted and smallmouth bass do share some of the same habits, they do not breed as readily as a largemouth and smallmouth will. However, when an angler mentions a meanmouth bass, they could still be referring to the resulting offspring between a spotted bass and a smallmouth bass, or a largemouth bass and a smallmouth bass.

A very few meanmouth bass can also be from smallmouth bass and different black bass species. Most of the hybrid species found are from a smallmouth bass fertilizing largemouth eggs, or from a largemouth male fertilizing eggs from striped bass, spotted bass, or other bass species.

Why Are They Called Meanmouth Bass? 

Meanmouth Bass 1
The term “meanmouth bass” is often used to refer to the hybrid offspring of the smallmouth and largemouth bass, but can also refer to the offspring created from the breeding of the smallmouth bass and other species of black bass.

The name was coined in the mid-1960s and is credited to Dr. Childers and his Illinois Natural History Survey colleagues. They attempted several sunfish family hybrids using various bass species but found the smallmouth and largemouth to be the most viable, as well as the most aggressive.

Dr. Childers observed a school of largemouth/smallmouths attacking other fish much larger than themselves, often with a vicious pack mentality. This overly aggressive display included an attack on the legs of a dog that ventured into the shallow water of the pond, and he even witnessed the bass leap after the dog when it had left the water.

The hybrids also attacked the head and chest of a female swimmer, forcing this person to leave the pond as soon as possible. After this purely aggressive nature was witnessed, the name “meanmouth” was coined.

Where to Find Meanmouth Bass?

Meanmouth are technically able to be found in any body of water that smallmouth and spotted bass share, or smallmouth and largemouth share. Since the meanmouth is always a hybrid with a smallmouth on one side, it has to be a habitat where its own species will live and be able to spawn successfully.

Missouri, Arkansas, Texas and Georgia have well-known populations of meanmouth bass of the largemouth and smallmouth combination. In some areas of these states, meanmouth bass are not allowed to be released after being caught. They should be permanently harvested and either used yourself or in some areas, donated to the Fish & Wildlife Department for study. 

How Big Do Meanmouth Bass Get?

In March of 2021, a state record 7-pound 9-ounce meanmouth was caught in Texas by Wyatt Frankens. At the time, this fish was also an international world record-breaker for hybrid bass.

However, in May of 2022, a massive 11-pound 1-ounce meanmouth was caught by angler Brady Stanford in the O.H. Ivie Reservoir of Texas. This area is often coined the “Bass Factory” and for good reason.

How to Catch Them

Since bass hybrids in general are rare fish, specifically searching for them will end up being a waste of time. Instead, locate an area where hybrids have been known to occur, or at least find a habitat that is fitting for both largemouth and smallmouth bass to live and spawn.

When fishing, use the same gear and technique as you would for a smallmouth bass. I personally prefer using soft plastics on a bass jig, but any finesse technique including drop shot rigs, shaky heads, and finesse jigs works as well.

Look for the right habitat to start your fishing adventure. The most success has come from clear water with rocky bottoms and a good amount of rock peaks and bluffs. Near tributaries into a lake or reservoir or other altered habitats within their natural range is a great place to start.

Most anglers have found that hybrids seem to stick to rocky areas more than around heavy structures such as pylons, docks, piers, bridges, and other similar areas. You also probably won’t have much luck getting them to bite around extremely heavy vegetation, fallen logs, or sunken debris.

Why Do the Two Species Mate?

There is really no scientific answer to this question. Research has not been done to an extent that can determine a 100% definite reason for these fish to hybridize. Even when plenty of same-species fish are found in the same area, hybrids from largemouth bass eggs with smallmouth bass sperm can still pop up.

The limited scientific study that has been done has found that all bass hybrids are part smallmouth. This could be due to the aggressive male smallmouth nature. The smallmouth are always the instigators when it comes to breeding, and male smallmouths can be extremely demanding and will chase females around for days until they get what they want.

Another find during some studies found that smallmouth sperm added to largemouth bass eggs resulted in far more fertilization than with other species. A single spawning could result in dozens of meanmouth fry.

The most commonly accepted theory is that meanmouth normally shows up in areas where spawning sites are limited, such as in man-made lakes or in reservoirs. Any area that can limit the amount of suitable nesting areas for smallmouth, so the males will seek out any opportunity to breed that they can.

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Jeff Knapp is an expert fisherman, guide and outdoor writer whose work is widely published across a range of sites including Tackle Village. Jeff is based in Pennsylvania and loves exploring the waterways of that state in pursuit of smallmouth bass, largemouth, panfish and trout.
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